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OSHA Ramps Up Inspections

The US Department of Labor is taking a new look at workplace safety, and employers are in the crosshairs.

Bracewell’s Bob Nichols discussed with reporter Phillip Perry in an article for Portable Plants what employers should be aware of as OSHA steps up enforcement activity and heightened penalty amounts.

Nichols emphasized that risk mitigation must start from the top and filter down through the ranks.

“From a legal perspective, a business operates through its managers and supervisors,” Nichols explained. “What they do or don’t do is often imputed to the employer. New hires must be properly trained from a safety perspective before they begin work.”

“Having worked on a wide variety of OSHA fatality cases, I know that one of the biggest mistakes supervisors make is to think that employees are responsible for themselves and if they make mistakes, it’s at their own risk,” said Nichols. “That’s not true. It is the supervisor’s obligation to look out for them and correct non-compliance. It’s the employer’s obligation to establish policies that keep workers safe from harm.”

Nichols also noted that the costliest of all accidents are not always to employees.

“Sometimes the harmed individual is not an employee,” Nichols said. “They could be a contractor, a vendor or a member of the public. In such cases the company does not have the protective barrier of workers’ compensation insurance against a lawsuit for full and punitive damages.”